Everything we know: Kidnapping and sexual assault suspect still on the run

A woman with a flat tire was kidnapped and assaulted in Tippecanoe County Saturday. The man accused is still on the run.

Posted: Jun 24, 2019 7:11 AM
Updated: Jun 25, 2019 3:02 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — A Tippecanoe County man accused of kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman is still on the run. Here's everything we know:

The Latest:

Tippecanoe County Sheriff Bob Goldsmith confirmed an arrest warrant has been issued for 55-year-old Paul Etter. He has still not been found.

Goldsmith said Etter is facing seven preliminary charges including two counts of rape when compelled by force or imminent threat of force, kidnapping, kidnapping when committed by using a vehicle, criminal confinement when a vehicle is used, criminal confinement and sexual battery when victim compelled to submit by force. He is also facing one misdemeanor.

Etter is still on the run, and Goldsmith believes he remains in eastern Tippecanoe County. He also said there have been no sightings of Etter that have been confirmed.

The Search:

Deputies said a woman notified police around 5 p.m. Saturday that a man abducted her. She told police she was taken against her will after he stopped to help her with a flat tire in the east-central part of Tippecanoe County.

The sheriff's office identified the man as 55-year-old Paul Etter. According to deputies, Etter took the woman to a home on 775 East, near where he lives. She was confined and assaulted, according to deputies. She tried to escape but police said he grabbed her and brought her back inside.

The woman was held hostage for several hours. Police said he then released the woman in another location.

Deputies on the scene told News 18 that Etter resisted arrest around State road 26 and 775 East. Police said while they were trying to arrest him, Etter drove away and then ran.

Etter is believed to be armed and dangerous.

Multiple agencies are helping in the search.

"State Police, DNR, West Lafayette, Lafayette Police Department," Goldsmith listed off. "We have a lot of people that are here helping out."

An ISP helicopter and an LPD drone searched from the sky, while K9s and officers from various agencies searched on the ground. A dark colored SUV that police say was Etter's, was towed away.

Comment on WLFI Web Story:

The Tippecanoe County Sheriff's Office is investigating comments received on a WLFI web story, potentially posted by Etter.

Around 1 p.m. Sunday, a Facebook account with Etter's name posted that he claims the devil came over him, making him do what he did. In the same comment he apologizes to family, friends, the community and law enforcement.

It's unclear if the posts were actually Etter's. The account has been active for several years.

Neighbors React:

Andrew Antonio's home sits right across from Etter's family farm. Paul Etter has been managing that farm through the years. 

“I see him go in and out every day. We wave to each other, you know, we're cordial,” said Antonio.

Even with just a wave and a smile here and there, he still noticed something different about him.

“He's definitely an eccentric guy, off-centered kind of guy but once you start talking to him he doesn't stop,” said Antonio. “He's always talking about all tons of different things going on.”

Antonio's daughter Grace said she just had a conversation with Etter a few weeks ago while cleaning some trash outside her home.

“He has this short driveway and there's this gate and so he had to get out of his car and open his gate and he started to have a conversation with me,” said Grace Antonio.

She felt the conversation was kind of odd.

“You hear all these stories about people obviously getting captured so I was a little creeped out,” said Grace. “I was a little scared. I was just kind of giving short answers. I'm very glad that I didn't keep talking with him and I went into the house right away.”

Antonio hopes this search comes to an end soon.

“I hope he turns himself in and doesn't get escalated to the point of no return,” said Antonio.

Antonio's home previously belonged to another member of the Etter family. He was concerned that Paul Etter could potentially be in his home since he would know how to navigate it. Law Enforcement is currently securing the area.

What To Do:

The search for Etter is still ongoing. The sheriff's office is warning those in the area not to open any doors.

Goldsmith said Etter is around 5 foot 9 inches tall and about 170 pounds. He is believed to be armed and dangerous. You are asked to call the sheriff's office at (765) 423-9321 with any information.

Goldsmith said the office has been receiving a large number of calls from concerned neighbors. He said if you live near the area, be mindful of your surroundings and call the office only if something seems out of the ordinary. He said deputies and police are actively looking for Etter, and resources are limited.

"We have a heavy presence in this area," Goldsmith said. "We're still taking phone calls, talking with people. So, it's just staying connected with the community and letting them know 'hey we're out here, we're doing everything we possibly can to keep you safe.'"

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